×

Film Review: ‘The Color of the Chameleon’

A darkly comic evocation of communist absurdities circa 1989

A darkly comic evocation of communist absurdities circa 1989, “The Color of the Chameleon” follows the fortunes of an amoral, almost Tom Ripley-esque opportunist and his initially state-decreed, later self-mandated adventures in surveillance. Based on scriptwriter Vladislav Todorov’s novel “Zincograph,” referenced within the film as a key underground text, this debut feature from Bulgarian helmer Emil Christov creates an alternate reality that juxtaposes Kafkaesque bureaucratic illogic with the murderous whimsy of an off-the-wall freelancer.  Composed as a series of surreal shocks, this New Directors/New Films entry, rapidly changing tones alongside its fearlessly imitative hero, reps a dark horse for arthouse distribution.

Batka (Ruscen Vidinliev) is recruited by the secret police to gather intel on a weirdo group of “new thinkers,” where counterintuitive feminism and vaginal speculums hold sway. But Batka’s imagination soars far beyond the confines of his role; told to “be creative,” he produces a treatise on outer-space spying and the challenges of zero-gravity surveillance. Summarily dismissed, he fakes official documents to conscript his former targets as operatives in a fictional bureau whose stated objective is to replace spontaneous orgasms with state-controlled ones, but whose real aim proves more subversive.

The Color of the Chameleon
Tsvetat na hameleona
(Bulgaria)

Reviewed at NewDirectors/New Films, Museum of Modern Art, New York, March 23, 2013. (Also in Palm Springs Film Festival; 2012 Toronto, Thessaloniki film festivals.) Running time: 111 MIN.

A Peripeteia Films, Nu Boyana, Bulgarian National Television, Restart production with the support of the Bulgarian Film Center. (International sales: Peripeteia Films, Sofia.) Produced by Bouriana Zakharieva, Vladislav Todorov.

Directed by Emil Christov. Screenplay, Vladislav Todorov, based on his novel “Zincograph.” Camera (color/B&W), Krum Rodriguez; editor, Alexander Etimov; music, Nikolay Madzharov, New Orchestra Ideas; production designer, Prolet Georgieva.

Cast: Ruscen Vidinliev, Irena Milyankova, Rousy Chanev, Deyan Donkov, Samuel Finzi, Svetlana Yancheva.

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'The Color of the Chameleon'

More Film

  • A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

    Film Review: 'A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon'

    No asteroids are hurtling toward Earth in “A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon,” though a flying frozen pizza does softly slice the top off an elderly shopper’s hairdo: That’s roughly the level of quirky peril we’re talking about in the latest outing from Aardman Animations, and as usual, the British stop-motion masters cheerfully prove that [...]

  • Slam

    Film Review: ‘Slam’

    The disappearance of a fearless female Palestinian-Australian slam poet triggers suspense and powerful social and political commentary in “Slam,” an outstanding slow-burn thriller by expat Indian filmmaker Partho Sen-Gupta (“Sunrise”). Starring Palestinian actor Adam Bakri (“Omar,” “Official Secrets”) as the missing woman’s conflicted brother, and leading Aussie performer Rachael Blake as a troubled cop, Opening [...]

  • Igo Kantor

    Igo Kantor, Producer and Post-Production Executive, Dies at 89

    Igo Kantor, whose Hollywood career took him from Howard Hughes’ projection room to supervising post-production on “Easy Rider” and producing B-movies like “Kingdom of the Spiders” and “Mutant,” died Oct. 15. He was 89. Kantor, who was born in Vienna and raised in Lisbon, met “Dillinger” director Max Nosseck on the ship to New York. [...]

  • The Lion King

    Average Movie Ticket Price Falls 4% in Third Quarter of 2019

    Average ticket prices for the third quarter have dropped 4% to $8.93, down from Q2’s $9.26, the National Association of Theatre Owners announced today. However, compared with the third quarter of 2018, ticket price has risen 1.1% from $8.83. The summer box office is down 2.13% from 2018, though the third quarter box office is [...]

  • Tilda Swinton to Preside Over The

    Tilda Swinton to Preside Over Marrakech Film Festival

    Tilda Swinton, the iconoclastic British actress and producer, is set to preside over the 18th edition of the Marrakech International Film Festival, succeeding to American director James Gray. Swinton, who won an Oscar and a BAFTA award for best supporting actress for “Michael Clayton,” has been leading an eclectic acting career. She has collaborated with [...]

  • The King Netflix

    Middleburg Film Festival Brings Hollywood to Virginia

    For the last seven years, audiences have flocked to the Middleburg Film Festival. Running October 17th – 21st, and situated in the wine-country hills of historic Middleburg, Virg., the festival usually highlights some of the year’s buzziest titles, and 2019 is no exception. “We’re a smaller festival with fewer overall screenings than other events, so we [...]

  • Kelly McCormick and David Leitch'Fast &

    'Wheelman' Director to Helm 'Versus' From David Leitch, Kelly McCormick (EXCLUSIVE)

    “Wheelman” director Jeremy Rush is in negotiations to helm the action movie “Versus,” with Kelly McCormick and David Leitch producing. Rush will direct the Universal movie from a script penned by “Three Musketeers” scribe Alex Litvak and “American Assassin” writer Mike Finch. Plot details are being kept under wraps, though it will follow the genre [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content